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US blizzard kills one, leaves thousands without power

Hospital emergency worker Susan Johnson shovels out her parking space before going to work during the severe storm in Boston, Massachusetts, yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Hospital emergency worker Susan Johnson shovels out her parking space before going to work during the severe storm in Boston, Massachusetts, yesterday. Photo: Reuters

A blizzard packing hurricane-force winds pummelled the northeastern US yesterday, killing at least one person, leaving about 600,000 customers without power and disrupting thousands of flights.

We need people to stay off the roads right now

Blizzard warnings were in effect for the northeastern coast, including the New York metropolitan area, the National Weather Service said.

“Travel conditions will continue to be extremely hazardous if not impossible,” it said.

The storm was expected to taper off from west to east into the afternoon. Snowfall is forecast to total from 60 to 75 cm in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, the weather service said in a statement.

In the first death blamed on the blizzard, a man in his 70s was killed when a driver lost control of her car and hit him in Poughkeepsie, New York, media reported.

Utility companies reported about 600,000 customers without power across Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut as the wet, heavy snow brought down trees and lines.

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee said 180,000 state residents had been left in the dark. National Guard troops were rescuing stran­ded motorists, especially on un­plow­ed on-ramps, he said. “We need people to stay off the roads right now,” he told CNN.

The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts, lost power and automatically shut down late on Friday, but there was no threat to the public, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

Hartford, Connecticut, was blanketed by 85 cm of snow and St James, New York, recorded 69 cm, with more coming down, the weather service said.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said street-clearing crews had been forced to suspend operations as snow fell at a rate of more than 10 cm an hour.

“I’ve never seen snow fall like this all at once,” he told CNN.

The heavy snowfall was backed by winds that gusted to 133 km an hour at Cuttyhunk, New York, and brought down trees across the region, the weather service said.

The storm also posed a risk of flooding at high tide to areas still recovering from October’s Superstorm Sandy. The governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Maine declared states of emergency before the storm. Thousands of flights were cancelled. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick banned most car travel starting on Friday afternoon. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy closed the state’s highways to all but emergency vehicles.

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